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Papabile (from Italian , plural : papabili ; literally: papal ) is a slang term for cardinals who are given opportunities in the election of a pope .

Finding out who is papabile is a regularly recurring topic, especially when new cardinals are appointed or the Pope is in poor health. In Rome, the saying goes: "Whoever goes to the conclave as Pope comes out again as a cardinal." That is why the cardinals do not speak publicly about possible candidates before a conclave .

The naming of a cardinal in a Papabile list is therefore an ambivalent matter and can give rise to speculation in three ways:

  1. The nomination corresponds to the high rank of a cardinal in hierarchy and personal reputation. However, historical experience shows that particularly powerful cardinals who are close to the last Pope are rarely elected (the elections of Pius XII. And Benedict XVI. Are therefore to be regarded as an exception to the rule).
  2. The nomination corresponds to the personal need of a person or a group for a certain candidate who represents their own ecclesiastical direction or their own nation, and is to be understood as an entry in a “wish list”.
  3. The naming is controlled in a targeted manner and is intended to prevent what it indicates: that the candidate named as papabile actually becomes Pope.


  • Bernhard Müller Hülsebusch: The representative of Jesus - mystery and truth of the papal election. St. Benno Buch- und Zeitschriftenverlagsgesellschaft, Leipzig, 2002 ISBN 3-7462-1501-3 .

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